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The summer of the barbarians

· The Novel ·

In a Moorish villa on the Pacific, Araceli, a Mexican waitress, observes the wealthy, well to do family for whom she works. But this is not reciprocated: for the "Bosses" the person behind the cleaning lady (“she takes off her uniform, freeing herself of her identity as a domestic assistant the moment her blouse and trousers end up in the basket of dirty washing”) does not exist. That is until – after they have disappeared, each one for their own reasons, abandoning the two exceptionally spoilt children – they return home and, starting to comprehend the profundity of their gesture, the couple are forced to come to terms with the woman Araceli.

Héctor Tobar's novel, The Summer of the barbarians (Einaudi, 2012), reveals a lot about ourselves. It reveals the unconscious racism that we carry within us; it reveals the temptation we have to unload the blame onto others, conveniently choosing what not to see, the negative spiral of misunderstanding. It shows the changes in relations between migrants and indigenous families.

But, above all, it reveals the voice of a woman who lives with us, but that we persist in considering not to be one of our own.




St. Peter’s Square

Jan. 29, 2020